This last week the Seahawks had sort of a small test, well, more of a pop quiz really, but still something resembling a test, and that was: could the Seattle Seahawks, coming off an emotional victory over the rival 49ers, retain their focus and maybe even improve on some things?
To my eyes they got a good score, but not a perfect score on that quiz. They cut down on penalties (big) and they took the game seriously, and played championship football the way they talk about playing every week. Perhaps most importantly, they mounted a drive led by Russell Wilson, that ended with a touchdown, that started with just 34 seconds on the clock before halftime. That was exactly the sort of drive that can really cure what ails a somewhat struggling offense.
Unfortunately they get docked a couple points for turnovers, one fumble and one interception. Still, a solid A- grade.
But that wasn't really a test was it? It was something that ought to be expected of teams that are truly ready for contention as the Seahawks are.
Two games ago, they beat down a team that many considered to be the front runners for the NFC West, and even the Superbowl. It was an eye opener for many in the media who just cannot seem to fathom that the Seahawks really are a good football team, for "realsies".
That was not a real test though.
"What?!?" you say. "Of course that was! That was a huge test!"
Actually, if there was one game, and only one game on the entire schedule that I knew, with one hundred percent absolute certainty that the Seahawks would win, even if the stars fell from the heavens and the seas boiled over, that was the game. That was the one game that I would have bet every penny I will ever make for the rest of my life on.
There was simply no way, no chance whatsoever that the Niners were coming into Seattle and leaving with a win. To my mind, the only question was whether or not it would be close. (Now, whether or not they win again in San Fran is a whole other can of worms! Personally I think they'll beat them down again because the Seahawks match up so well with them, but I do have some reservations about making that prediction). I never even once thought that there was any possible way that the hated Niners could go into Seattle and leave with a victory. Not in Seattle! Anywhere else maybe, but NOT in Seattle!
The first, and only other real test so far this season came in week one, against an underrated Panthers team on the road. I say underrated because the Panthers legitimately have one of the best defensive fronts in football, easily a top five front seven. Truth be told, the Seahawks barely passed that test. One beautifully executed drive led by Russell Wilson, was the reason the Seahawks didn't fail that test completely, as they got beaten up on the line of scrimmage on both sides, for three quarters of that game.
Still, whatever the final score, and despite a final grade of probably a D, just passing, they did pass that test. It was an early game, on the East Coast, against an underrated team desperate to start out hot, due to the last three years of slow starts and hot finishes. In the past, (even recent past) the Seahawks have failed that test.
Now, the second truly big test of this early season. The Seahawks travel to Houston, to take on a team that has multiple star players sprinkled throughout their team at important positions. They have receivers who are as good as any in the NFL, a quarterback who is at least good enough to win big games, a running game featuring not one but two terrific running backs, and a defense led by one of the most fearsome pass rushers in the game today, J.J. Watt. What's worse, they are coming off a road beat down by the Baltimore Ravens. They are not going to take that lightly.
This week the Seahawks have a chance to do something that they've never done before. They have a chance to open the season 4-0. They will have to play this game without their pro-bowl left tackle, while facing All Pro defensive end, and quite possibly the best pass rusher in all of football, J.J. Watt, who was held without a sack and even a tackle last week. (He won't be happy!)
The good news is, the Texans were exposed a bit last week by the Ravens own pass rush. They got in Schaub's face early, and stayed there throughout the game. It won't be any easier for the Texans with the Seahawks coming into town. Not only will they be facing the single best defensive secondary in football, (I'm not even going to bother backing that up with statistics, because it's painfully obvious that it's the best, and because as Richard Sherman pointed out, "we're only the best secondary on film"), but a revamped defensive line as well, featuring two huge off season acquisitions, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Newly healthy Chris Clemons should be back to near 100% for this one too.
The Seahawks match up well with the Texans, as they can shut down even the best of receivers, and are normally pretty stout against the run, but make no mistake, this game is a big, big test.
Can the Seahawks once again travel, and take care of business, given the fact that in the recent past, the answer was often a resounding "no"?
Can the Seahawks do something that no other Seahawks team has ever done before, and start the season 4-0?
Can the Seahawks handle the pressure from the Texans defensive line, without Russell Okung?
Can the Seahawks continue to play incredible defense in the secondary...wait that's probably a stupid question... O.K., can they stop a top notch running game on the road? (Much better question...I have no doubts about that secondary!)
I believe the answer to each of those questions is yes, but make no mistake, this one is a legitimately big, big test; and the only reward for passing, is getting another one just like it, the following week.
Buckle in Seahawks fans, this is where the road gets rougher.